Can Tantra 2 help you breathe new life into your sounds?
The word Tantra refers to a combination of philosophical and spiritual practices originating in India around the 6th Century, and its verbal root ‘tan’ comes from the Sanskrit word meaning to weave or compose. So it’s an apt name for this DS Audio plug‑in, which is intended for those who are looking to weave some interesting sonic textures into their productions, and sits in a similar ‘creative multi‑effects’ category as Output’s Movement, Sugar Bytes’ Turnado and Lunatic Audio’s Narcotic. The original version was released back in 2015, but the new v2 delivers several new features alongside a substantial UI redesign.
Each of a pair of signal chains (A and B) has six effects modules (Filter, Distortion, Delay, LoFi, Flanger and Glitch), global reverb and EQ effects are found in the upper half of the UI, and there’s a set of eight curve or step‑based (up to 32 steps) modulation sources with tempo‑sync control, which can be applied to the effects module parameters and to both volume (Tremolo) and pan (Pan Flip). Bottom‑right of the UI, you can toggle on/off the A or B signal chains, adjust their volumes and panning, and switch them between parallel or serial signal flow. That last option opens up all sorts of possibilities, including the ability to apply different processes to the left/right sides of a stereo source signal. There’s also a global Mix control, should you want to adjust the blend of your processed and unprocessed sounds, and it’s worth noting that each module includes its own individual Mix control too.
The topmost strip provides access to the preset system (Tantra 2 is well‑stocked in this regard), a macro playback speed adjustment setting, display toggle switches between the two effects chains and a Routing panel to change the effects module order for the currently selected layer. The lowest portion of the display can be toggled between the default reverb/EQ/master section and the modulation matrix although, as described below, you can also link modulation targets to one of the eight modulation sources with a little click‑dragging.
Amongst other features, there are presets for the modulation patterns/curves and a number of dice icons that provide randomisation options globally, for individual effects modules and for individual modulation sources. The UI can be resized, although for my Cubase review system at least this had to be done via the main menu (top left) from some size‑scaling presets, rather than grabbing the corner of the window and simply dragging.
The number and type of the effects modules for each chain is limited to the six on display, but these are well chosen and, in combination with the modulation curves/patterns, there’s more than enough scope here to get very creative. The main parameters for each module are fairly conventional choices but that’s no bad thing — it means they’re pretty easy to operate and they always offer a good degree of control. Still, it’s worth me emphasising a few features. For example, the Filter module offers you the choice of 18 different modes, including various low‑pass and high‑pass filters with different slopes, and band‑pass, ring‑mod and vowel options. The filter sounds great and, with so many modulation sources on offer here, all the classic filter‑based effects are brought within easy reach.
Perhaps the only effect that really requires any study is the Glitch module. A good way to start is by modulating the Scale control, but the randomising dice button can often provide inspiration too!
As I mentioned above, you can reorder the modules within each of the A and B effects chains independently, and you do this using the Routing panel within the topmost control strip. This works very well but, rather oddly, the order you set here is not reflected in the visuals within the main effects module display. Neither can you drag the modules within the main effects display to change the order, which would be nice — perhaps that would be something worth implementing in a future update?
If you have a synth pad that needs to go from zero to sonic hero in your mix, Tantra 2 provides you with plenty of ways to take it there.
Tantra’s modulators can be configured in the lower half of the UI. You can tab between the eight modulation sequencers using the numbered buttons, and each sequencer can be used in step or curve mode, as required. Editing of the steps and/or curves adheres to conventional graphical editing methods, and the feature set includes the ability to adjust the gate of each step, the overall smoothness, the shape of the curve segments (using the Tension knob) and apply a degree of shuffle to the sequences.
To set a specific effect control as a target for one of the modulator sequencers, you simply click and drag from the circle icon located above the modulator selection buttons. A dashed line appears, and this can be dragged and dropped to a specific parameter to make the link. However, if you prefer a full modulation matrix experience, that’s also available and offers 24 possible slots. Modulators can be linked to multiple target parameters and targets can also be modulated by more than one source. It’s a very flexible and powerful system.
There’s a lot going on here, and the best way to get your head around just how flexible and powerful Tantra can be is simply to explore the supplied preset collection. These are organised into a number of categories and are helpfully named, with obvious hints as to their primary intention. For example, there are numerous ‘FLT’ and ‘GL’ type presets that make heavy use of the Filter or Glitch modules, respectively. Other presets include a ‘DRUM’, ‘PAD’ or ‘SEQ’ label suggesting the type of sound source they are intended to be used with. You can, of course, create and save you own presets.
If you’re a fan of more experimental effects processing, then you’ll find plenty within the preset collection to whet your appetite; sonically, Tantra 2 delivers as advertised. So, if you have a synth pad that needs to go from zero to sonic hero in your mix, Tantra 2 provides you with plenty of ways to take it there. Equally, if you fancy turning some conventional acoustic drums into a trippy electronic rhythm, Tantra 2 can do that with ease. Providing you can avoid the temptation to apply Tantra 2’s ear‑candy to every instrument in your mix, it can make a feature out of almost any sound that it is applied to; there is a lot of sonic fun to be had.
That said, temptation might be tempered by some practical constraints. Apple Silicon users will want to check on progress, since at the time of writing the plug‑in was not yet M1 native. More generally, as with other heavy‑hitting creative multi‑effects plug‑ins, Tantra 2 can tend to feast on CPU cycles — while on a modern computer it’s perhaps not going to be too much of an issue, if you are already working at the limits of your hardware, this means some resource management might be required. Don’t let that put you off, though: the results are certainly worth it.
If electronic music production or creative sound design are your thing, Tantra 2 has plenty to offer. Fun, powerful, flexible, and with a straightforward UI that makes it easy to use, this plug‑in is a heck of a lot of sonic fun, and I’d put it right up there with the other creative multi‑effects plug‑ins I mentioned at the start of this review. In fact, I found it very straightforward to get to grips with (Glitch module aside!), and I’d say the UI is perhaps easier to navigate than that of Movement or Turnado.
At its full price, I’m not sure Tantra 2 quite falls into the no‑brainer purchase category. That said, Plugin Alliance are renowned for having frequent sales with impressive discounts — at the time of writing, Tantra 2 is on sale for just $37.19 — and it is also available through Plugin Alliance’s monthly subscription services such as the Mega Bundle. PA offer a free 14‑day trial of all their products, so if you want to try before you buy, you can. Tantra 2 is most certainly worth exploring.
DS Audio’s Tantra 2 provides a powerful multi‑effects platform. Electronic music producers/composers will find plenty of creative sound‑design potential to explore.